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[Article] Are we breaking down things to much for design and complicate the process or is it necessary in a more complex world?


Jimi Wikman
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UX design, visual design, interaction design, creative technologist, GUI designer, usability consultant, information architect. The titles are endless these days and as someone who work with all of these pretty much every day I am starting to wonder if we are breaking things down to much these days, or if it is actually necessary to get things done?

10 years ago most of these titles were pretty uncommon, at least compared to the way they are used today. They still existed, they just were not as clearly defined and separated as they are today. Most just called themselves "designer" and that was pretty much ok.

When I had my own design business there was no distinction between a visual designer or a UX designer for example because without the knowledge of one you can not do the job of another.

Without knowing the information structure and the technical limitation of the platform I am designing for, I can not set the interaction design. Without the interaction design I can not set the UX and without the UX I can not set the visual design. It's not quite that linear as they all blend on multiple levels, but you get the idea.

So for me these things are always connected and maybe that is why I never felt comfortable focusing on just one area. How can I best help a client if I do not understand the whole picture? How can I create a solution without understanding everything from psychology to visual principles to information architecture and interaction patterns in the different touch points in a customer journey?

As the fields expand rapidly, just as they do for front end development, the information flow becomes almost unmanageable. Is this perhaps the reason why we see people that proclaim to be UX designers, visual designers or interaction designers? Or is it just that they still are "designers", but just focus on one area of expertise more than the other fields?

Unfortunately I see a division, just like the division happening for the front end developers, where we have designers that put the creative power of the visual design as their only craft and others with the intellectual focus of interaction and psychology as a separate craft.

I have been in projects where this division have worked fine and I have been in projects where this does absolutely does not work at all. It all depends on the people and the methodology where communication is always the key.

As we dig deeper into the psychology of design and user behavior, for the web in general and e-commerce in particular, does this mean that it become to difficult to stay on top of the development in all these fields so a division of discipline is required?

The tools we use suggest the opposite however and the borders between visual deign, interaction/UX design and even code becomes more and more blurred. So from a technical point of view we move towards where I was 10-15 years ago where you are doing just "design". 

As of now I am not really sure what is the best way moving forward. Is it better to have very focused individuals that form teams to get the full width of the design process? Or is it better to have less focused individuals that can handle the full range of disciplines on their own? What does this mean for methodologies and work processes, does it matter at all?

What are your thoughts on this matter? What direction do you think we are headed and how do you feel about that?


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